Tolleson artist Edgar Fernandez

Tolleson artist Edgar Fernandez created “Gema,” a striking mural making a bold statement in Downtown Gilbert.

Tolleson artist Edgar Fernandez is turning heads with a stunning new mural in Downtown Gilbert.

Located on a back wall of Flashback Antiques and visible from East Page Avenue, a mural Fernandez calls “Gema” (“Gem,” in English) depicts a row of local Latinas and a raven. It was commissioned by Mary Ellen Fresquez, who owns the building that houses the antiques store.

“My desire was to have art that would inspire young girls,” said Fresquez, who originally wanted the mural to depict well-known women in Arizona but decided to instead highlight Latinas after conversations with the artist and her female relatives. 

“I feel that it is important to celebrate diversity, and the mural certainly accomplishes this,” she added.

Fernandez, who moved to Arizona from Los Angeles, decided to use female figures that are important to his life journey and would represent diversity in facial features and lifestyles. This is his first attempt at creating a realistic portrait mural.

“With this series of portraits, I am trying to convey diversity among women of color and representing their resilience and the empowering role they play in our society,” he said. 

The portraits, from left, are of his friend Sam Fresquez (Mary Ellen Fresquez’s granddaughter), cousin Ruby, fiancee Elida, cousin Esmeralda and friend Gloria Martinez-Granados. 

“All of these female models for this mural play a special part in my journey,” he said. “The diversity of all of these women have different backgrounds and lifestyles and can still gather together and respect each other’s uniqueness.” 

Fernandez, an ASU graduate, made 23 trips to Gilbert during late spring and early summer to complete the project. He painted in the early mornings to avoid the burgeoning heat. 

“I feel confident and proud of the finished product of this mural. Knowing and accepting the challenges of the heat, drive and realistic opportunity to express myself have brought my creativity and patience to a whole new level,” he said.

His past mural work has been in private properties, while public murals may be viewed in the multicultural Miracle Mile neighborhood on 16th Street and McDowell Road in Phoenix and in Shaw Elementary School on 13th Street and Washington Avenue, also in Phoenix. 

A lot of Fernadez’s art so far has been modern ancestral art. For nearly a decade, he has displayed his work and shared his knowledge in solo and group shows, mural projects and youth art workshops.

In each work, he seeks to embrace the ancestral spirit that flows through his heart and project it to the community. In the Gilbert mural, he celebrates his ancestral spirit by embracing the power women played in keeping the Latino culture strong. 

“Embracing my ancestral spirit is also being played in the fierce facial features within each female portrait, and the powerful organic designs in the background are tied to natural movements and vibrations that connect me to my ancestors,” he said. 

Gema depicts Spanish text from an old Mexican song of the same name that translates to: “You are the gem that God converted into a woman.”